If approved, the funds will be closer to being included in the final House transportation appropriations bill.
By Andy Porter
Of the Union-Bulletin
Federal funds to aid part of the U.S. Highway 12 widening project will face another critical vote this week.
The House Appropriations Committee is expected to vote on $1 million for the highway project Thursday. If approved, the funds will be a step closer to being included in the House version of the 2003 transportation appropriation bill.
In July, the Senate Transportation Committee approved $2.5 million for the project in its version of the transportation bill. If funds for the project make it to final versions of both the House and Senate bills, the amount the project would receive would be worked out by a conference committee before final passage.
Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Wash., said Tuesday he and others “pushed hard” on Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., the chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Sub-committee, to make sure the funds were included in the House bill.
“We…said ‘We’ve got to get something in,’ to make sure we can come together in conference (with the Senate),” Nethercutt said Tuesday.
He hopes the final sum approved for the project will exceed $1 million, “but this is a good number. So at least it allows us to fight another day,” he said.
There is still a chance the funds could be cut in later versions of the bill, but Nethercutt said he was confident the money will be approved.
“I can’t guarantee that’s going to happen, but I can doggone almost guarantee it because it’s in the bill, and there’s no reason for it to come out,” he said Tuesday.
If approved, the federal fund would be used for the second phase of the highway widening project, a 2.7-mile stretch in the vicinity of the Boise Cascade plant.
Funds have been secured for the first phase of the project, a 3.4-mile stretch between McNary Pool and the vicinity of Dodd Road. The $10.1 million first phase is scheduled to go to bid this fall.
Jim Kuntz, Port of Walla Walla executive director, said Nethercutt’s efforts to get funds for U.S. Highway 12 are “a significant milestone” in efforts to continue the project.
The Port has been a lead agency in lobbying for federal and state funds to widen the highway between Burbank and Wallula.
As planned, the project to widen U.S. Highway 12 between Burbank and Walla Walla to four lanes would encompass seven phases and cost an estimated $160 million.
The first four phases would widen about 12 miles of the highway between Burbank and the Wallula Junction. Phases five through seven would widen the road over the remaining 27 miles between Wallula and Walla Walla.